How to Deal with an Unmotivated or Bad AGR Staff or Team

Today, I want to give you some tips on how to deal with an unmotivated or difficult AGR staff.  This advice is really designed for M-Day leaders, such as Company Commanders and First Sergeants, who rate their unit’s AGR Staff.

I should start out by telling you that most AGR Soldiers are quality Soldiers.  They want to do the right thing.  They care about the unit and want it to be successful.  During my six years in the National Guard I can tell you that most of the full-time AGR Soldiers went out of their way to support the M-Day Soldiers (at least 90% of them).

That being said, I know the opposite is true.  I know there are some AGR Soldiers who are disgruntled, angry, incompetent and unmotivated, who view M-Day Soldier as an inconvenience. They might even think the M-Day Soldiers exist to support them.

I also understand that most AGR Soldiers are in a unique situation.  In most cases, the person they take orders from on a daily basis is not their formal rater.  In most cases, the AGR staff works for another AGR Soldier during the week, but gets rated by an M-Day Soldier.  Talk about a conflict of interest!

So, to be quite frank with you, I can see this issue from both sides of the coin.

If you are a part-time Soldier (M-Day) and you have a full-time AGR Staff that works for you (like I did as a Company Commander) than you have to get creative with your leadership.

Even though the AGR Soldier is there to support you and help you, you need to see things from their perspective.  That will go a long way to help improving your relationship.

Quite perhaps the biggest reason so many AGR Soldiers are disgruntled and unmotivated is because they feel like they do their boss’s job for them (and usually without the pay).  For example, a Readiness NCO at the company level will typically be doing the work of what the Company Commander and First Sergeant would do (on Active Duty).

Sadly, many M-Day Soldiers aren’t that involved and don’t do their job.  As a result, that work gets passed on to the AGR Soldier!  Can’t you see how this would make them unmotivated?

As the M-Day Soldier, you need to be involved.   You can’t just show up for training (like your junior enlisted soldiers do) every month.  Instead, you’re going to have a lot of work to do outside of drill weekend.

In the paragraphs below, I will share six simple things you can do to deal with an unmotivated AGR Staff.

# 1 Do your initial counseling in writing – The first and most important thing you need to do is do your initial counseling with your AGR staff IN WRITING.  If I was a gambling man, I’d bet that 95% of National Guard and Army Reserve leaders do not do this.  You want to put everything in writing so the expectations are set.  This lets them know you are serious, take pride in your job, and also lets them know what will happen if they fail to do their job.

# 2 Do your job – The next thing you need to do is DO YOUR JOB.  Don’t delegate everything you are supposed to do to your AGR Staff just because they are working Army stuff full time.  You can never delegate your responsibility.  Don’t even try to do it.  Make sure you do the work you should be doing.

# 3 Visit the armory once every 1-2 weeks – As a leader, you need to visit the armory and meet with the AGR Staff at least every couple weeks.  Once a week is ideal.  Nothing beats face to face time.

# 4 Communicate daily with AGR Staff – You should be communicating DAILY with your AGR counterpart.  Even if it’s just two to three minutes a day, calling the armory every day can make a big difference.  This keeps you in the loop as to what is going on and shows them that you care.  It also lets you know about little problems before they become big problems.

# 5 Respond to issues and needs of the AGR Staff – When your AGR staff sends you a request, be prompt in your response.  Don’t take days or weeks to get back to them.  If they need you to sign something, SIGN IT and get it back to them ASAP. It should be a give and take relationship where you both help each other.

# 6 Review the rating chain – Under no circumstance should your AGR staff be rated by another AGR Soldier, especially if you are their Company Commander or First Sergeant.  If they report to you during drill weekend you should be their formal rater on paper.  If you are not, get it fixed immediately.  If you are not their rater (formally) it will be hard to get them to do much for you.

Additional Insights

If you have done all of these things and your AGR Staff is still unmotivated and hard to work with, I suggest the first thing you do is meet with them face to face and try to work things out.  Give them the benefit of the doubt.  Most people want to do the right thing.  Let them know that you want to have a good, professional relationship with them.  Let them know you care about the unit and want to create a win-win relationship.  If that doesn’t work, move to the next step.

The second thing you can do is sit down with them, their AGR day-to-day supervisor, your boss and yourself.  I would identify problems and try to work them out collaboratively.  If you can get their day to day AGR supervisor to support you, it will be a lot easier.

If you have done the first two steps and there is still an issue, I would highly suggest you do a bad evaluation or relief for cause.  Only consider doing this IF you have done the first two steps AND done your initial and follow up counseling in writing.

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is that most AGR Soldiers are great Soldiers.  As a leader, it’s your job to keep your followers motivated and on point.  If you are dealing with a difficult or unmotivated AGR Soldier, I highly suggest you follow the advice in this post.  It should help you resolve the issue promptly.

What are your thoughts?  What tips can you share for dealing with an unmotivated or difficult AGR Staff?  Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.  I look forward to hearing from you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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4 thoughts on “How to Deal with an Unmotivated or Bad AGR Staff or Team”

  1. It all goes back to some leadership advice I have heard time and time again: they will do what we do.

    If we are doing our jobs properly, the AGR staff will take notice and will do their jobs properly.

    I also completely agree with taking the time and visiting the armory once per week. When they see that you care about the unit enough to do this, they will change their impression of you.

  2. Wonderful advice for leaders to try seeing things from the perspective of the AGR soldier. It is easy to see how some of these folks get disgruntled – especially if they feel they are doing someone else’s job for free. It is essential though, as you state, to document all counseling in writing. This keeps everyone on the same page, and use of that Magic Bullet statement can really turn things around here.

  3. I do believe you hit on some great points here Chuck. It is my opinion that the majority of AGR staff that are hard to work with have been made that way. If you are doing your job and checking in with them daily, they will realize you are not like ones before you. It may take some time getting them back to a good working relationship, but by following the steps you laid out here, I believe a good relationship will develop.

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